Images and Practices of Cosmopolitanism in the Commercial Society of Southern Europe, 1500-1800


ACLS Fellowship Program




Enlightenment thinkers argued that market relations lead to the erasure of ethnic and religious identities, and favor the rise of individualistic and cosmopolitan societies. This project seeks to historicize concepts and practices of cosmopolitanism in early modern Europe by comparing the increasing universal and ecumenical language of trade with the forms of social and legal exclusion and integration of foreign merchants in European port-cities. Did European geographical and commercial expansion create a cosmopolitan society or did profitable ties between merchant communities coexist with, benefit from, and perhaps even intensify acute divisions and discrimination? Unlike conventional contrasts between Northern Protestant and Southern Catholic Europe, my research compares Venice and Marseille: two cities that were, at different times, hegemonic in the Mediterranean and yet sustained divergent policies and attitudes toward merchants belonging to ethno-religious minorities. Sources for this project include business letter, travel accounts, visual material, legislation, community records, and post-mortem inventories.